Eating on the Run: A Qualitative Investigation of Fast Food Student Employees and Social Network Influences on Eating Behaviors

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2009

Project Description/Abstract

Obesity is a complex public health problem, whose influences range from genetic to lifestyle to environmental to economic factors. In this project, I will investigate how social networks influence eating behaviors. Through a series of 30—45 minute interviews with students working in fast-food restaurants, I will gather data on contextual features of eating as a fast-food worker. I will do NVIVO analysis of that data to elicit information that helps to reveal ways student fast-food workers are constrained with respect to eating. I will use those results to develop a philosophical account of how responsibility, individual agency and control are affected by what I call “eating contexts”. The goal is to develop a better understanding of how qualitative individual contextual reports contribute to development of philosophical notions of agency, control, and individual responsibility.

I am using methods from the Experimental Philosophy movement, which uses empirical survey data to shape theoretical notions like moral responsibility. Using qualitative social science methods to gather data aids in theory development on the connections between aspects of people’s reported experiences and underlying concepts of choice, responsibility, control and agency—concerns of fundamental philosophical import.

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